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August 21, 2014

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CeeLo Green: ‘I picked Liberace because I have great taste, and so did he’


Erik Kabik/

The “CeeLo and Friends” Christmas show and Keep Memory Alive fundraiser featuring CeeLo Green (pictured here with the Muppets), Rod Stewart and “The Voice” contestants at Peepshow Theater in Planet Hollywood on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.


When Grammy-winning superstar CeeLo Green arrives for his official welcome at Planet Hollywood on Thursday night, fans can expect a spectacle worthy of entertainer extraordinaire Liberace.

In fact, it will be more flamboyant, outrageous and over the top — with furs, diamonds and other accoutrements — than the late sparkling and sequined Las Vegas pianist could ever have dreamed. This is how “Mr. Showmanship” made an entrance at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1981.

“CeeLo’s new ‘Loberace’ spectacular opening here will have fire-breathing dragons, fireworks, unicorns and tons of eccentric fun, so his arrival will match that and make a fashion and social statement. He’s very happy and comfortable about the show even now,” I was told.

CeeLo Green

When I talked with CeeLo shortly before he arrived here Tuesday for rehearsals, he promised that it will be a unique and wild-ride spectacle through colorful decades of music. It all began with his video as Loberace on “I Want You (Hold on to Love).”

CeeLo is known for NBC’s “The Voice” and has been a music star since Goodie Mob in 1991 and then Gnarls Barkley. Now he’s going to be known for the extraordinary “Loberace.” We talked while he was en route to rehearsals:

CeeLo Green

CeeLo Green: I’m in a really good mood and in a good place at the moment. I’ve just finished recording a version for the new “Girl Power” album. All is going well with the rehearsals.

Robin Leach: Why did you choose a salute to Liberace? Do you think he was the ultimate theatrical showman?

C.G.: Of course — that would be stating the obvious. Then again, the obvious has been out of sight and out of mind for quite a long time. This is kind of a reminder, a reinvention, a remembering of that old spirit of the showmanship, the spectacle, sensational, surreal and whimsical things that make up entertainment. This show is to make it tangible, and Las Vegas makes this fantasy tangible.

I didn’t choose it; it chose me. Fortunately for me, I am cut from the same cloth and so imperatively, intuitively in an artistic manner, but mindfully, I have to lead; it’s my duty in saying and doing. I believe that it must be done. Someone must represent this renaissance, this bold, this bravery for our generation, and I believe that I am poised to do it.

I am still old enough to be an elder and still young enough to be the youth. I am a bridge between these generations, and essentially it is a music education to just remind them of the greats. I picked Liberace because I have great taste, and so did he. He brought rock ’n’ roll to classical piano the way that I am bringing rock ’n’ roll to modern music. Rock ’n’ roll is not just a fashion statement; it is the attitude, and it has a political posturing, as well. It is just fantastic to see.

R.L.: Are you going to be as flamboyant as Liberace?

C.G.: My thing is not to compete; my thing is to continue in his work so well done. He would have been my elder and so much wiser than myself. I can only hope to make him and all of Las Vegas and the world proud in revitalizing something that is lying dormant, but in all us. You remember it as soon as you see it. I am serving to summon that spirit of old-fashioned shock value and soul business. These things are important to me, and they are entertaining to me to because it is based on “fan-ship.” I am a bigger fan than anything. Trust me, I will be the one and only CeeLo Green in the room that night.

CeeLo and Friends Christmas Show at Planet Hollywood

The Launch slideshow »

R.L.: Can we expect fabulous costumes? Can we expect dancing girls? Can we expect over the top?

C.G.: Oh, yes. You can expect the unexpected because, of course, it is Las Vegas. I sort of have a license to live out loud in Las Vegas, which is something that I love. We are definitely going to set the bar higher than it is, especially coming from where I am coming from. I myself have seen The Beatles’ “Love” show five times, taking five separate groups of people to experience it and enjoy it the way that I did.

It has been perfect every time, so I can only hope for that same type of commitment and with my heart and soul do it the way the best for Las Vegas. The best come to Las Vegas to entertain, and I want to be in that company. I am coming to co-exist. Therefore, CeeLo Green is most certainly an alternative to almost every other thing that is going on there. There is nothing but positivity about that.

Robin Leach and Liberace in 1983

R.L.: CeeLo, you’ve chosen a late-nighttime slot — 11 p.m. and midnight for “Loberace.” Is that so you can stay hardworking by day, too, or do you think you’re going to start a trend with entertainment in Las Vegas?

C.G.: The time slot is just supposed to be the pre-party before whatever real party you decide to go to. This is to kind of get your motor running and point you in the right direction. I think it will actually be cool because we are doing the same room at Planet Hollywood where “Peepshow” is performed. So we start with a lot of that sexual tension, that raw sex power. All these kind of things are on the cusp of happening around that hour because you know the first rule is what happens there stays there.

I won’t be too detailed about, it but hopefully we can be as liberal as we like because we are all consenting adults. It is all in good fun and good health. We will drink responsibly, we will live and we will love responsibly. I will see to it as host that you have the time of your life. I suspect that I would become a pacemaker of some sort, but I’m not trendy, so I don’t think late-night entertainment will become a trend.

R.L.: Are you going to slow down your crazy work schedule by day or continue working now around the clock?

C.G.: I am going to try to use all of the time wisely because we do four shows a week from Wednesday through Saturday. It is going to be an interesting schedule for me, so I am training for the challenge. I’m up for it because it is a whole new dynamic to me to do it in this fashion. I will probably definitely get some rest, but also getting in some recording time, too, because I have a solo album that we would like to have out later in the year. I will be stationery in Las Vegas, so my rest and my workplace are all in the same room. I should be able to do it. If monkeys can ride bicycles, I am sure I can do this!

R.L.: We have a great recording studio here at the Palms used by many major stars.

C.G.: I know just the place. We are already in contact with the wonderful people there, and we will be spreading that love around.

Cee Lo Green and ‘Jubilee!’ at Hollywood and Highland

Cee Lo Green and Launch slideshow »

CeeLo Green

R.L.: What hints can you reveal about the show to get us worked up before its opening?

C.G.: The show is a favored Pandora station. At its core, it came from “Lady Killer.” We’ll try to capitalize or maximize that kind of sensation. I didn’t know “The Voice” would become such a runaway success at the same time we were trying to do a tour and a new album. I was, like, “Wow, I don’t know how I am going to do it all.” Some people have only been aware of me the last three years. Some don’t know my career has a 19-year track record.

It was starting to be very disheartening for me because I have been working so hard. My celebrity has passed my songbook, if you will, so I said, ‘Let’s do a cool little get-together kind of thing, mix it with some of my music, and it will really help me to identify with the audience that is most affectionate toward me.”

On tour, you can’t travel with a lot of things. Las Vegas ended up being a stationary place right near its sister, Los Angeles. Planet Hollywood was brave enough to get behind me and have the foresight that this could be the future; they are supporting me on it.

Each brand new audience will make it a new show every night. I love that transfer of energy, and the people feel my passion. As long as people are pleased, I can stomp, jump, twist and do splits or scream and shout. I want people to understand and know that they are coming to see something unique, but also to be totally surprised, too, so I am, too. I hope everybody realizes that coming to Las Vegas is perfect for me, and it makes all the sense in the world. If you can feel it, Robin, everyone will feel it!

We have musicians, we have dancers, we have gorgeous girls, we have fire-breathing dragons, and we are trying to get the flying piano. It’s become a legend, but it costs a pretty penny to put into production. I would love it with that piano there. It could bring that wonderful magic to the people there every night. I cannot wait for everybody to come see the show.

CeeLo’s arrival is set for 8 p.m. Thursday on the Strip outside Planet Hollywood. Expect massive spotlights, major video and photo coverage — the whole over-the-top outrageous production once perfect for Liberace and now perfect for CeeLo’s “Loberace.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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